No. 3 Southwestern Assemblies of God University used a 9-0 run to build an 11-point lead and staved off Arlington Baptist College, 75-70, on Monday night at the Sheaffer Center.
The visiting Patriots (4-6) brought their A-game, and, combined with the effects of Finals Week at SAGU, made the Lions sweat before they passed the test.
SAGU, now 7-1, never trailed in the second half and led 75-64 with 5:35 left in the game.
Jonathan Walter poured in 12-of-19 shots to finish with a career-best 30 points.
His previous high was 22 during last yearís 72-68 win over Martin-Methodist College (21-10) in the Second Round of the NAIA national tournament.
In that game the Lions overcame a seven-point deficit with 4:47 remaining. Walter drained four three-point baskets in the game.
Against Arlington Baptist he also added five rebounds and three steals.
The junior flyerís opportunity to deliver the final nail with a two-handed slam was cut short by a hard foul. Otherwise, he played well all night.
The upstart Patriots did draw to within five with 2:48 remaining, but only managed two shot attempts the rest of the way. SAGUís defense applied the clamps to keep ABC from seriously threatening.
The Lions missed their final six shots, all with chances to ice the win. One was a 3-on-1 fastbreak with the layup spinning out.
Instead the team stymied their guests with defense, protecting both the ball and the lead.
Walkerís white-hot start that served as the Patriots impetus in the opening the game with a 22-7 lead.
SAGU answered with a 21-5 run to seize the lead, 30-29, and had the lead for good at the half, 47-42. Walter had 17 points by recess, including four trifectas.
Trailing 34-30 with 4:36 left in the half, the Lions raced ahead during a 17-8 finish.
After scoring on a baseline drive, Jon Walter stroked a 3-ball from the corner pocket after taking a kick-out pass from Karor Gumwell.
Daniel Mills broke down the Arlington defense with a penetrating move on the Lions next possession. He spotted Walter on the wing, where he launched a trey to go on top, 43-42.
SAGU never relinquished the lead from that point on.
Walter delivered a lay up on an inbounds play to begin the decisive 9-0 run that served as a scoreboard stiff-arm to the Patriots. He assisted a drive by Tyler Guidry to lead 70-64.
From the leftside during transition, Gentry lateraled to Walter for a deuce in traffic.
Then Walter swiped the ball near the sideline and then feathered a long pass to Caleb Feemster for a 10-point lead.
Gentry capped the run with a free throw for a 75-64 upper hand.
From here on, the path to the post-season takes a steep incline. There are 22 games remaining; all but two are against foes in the Sooner Athletic Conference.
On Jan. 2, the Lions travel to Shawnee, Okla. to face top-seeded Oklahoma Baptist University.
Two days later they return home for a 5 p.m. clash with nationally-ranked Mid-America Christian University.